The State Of Publishing


When I was in school, I read about the Industrial Revolution, and all the changes it brought, some good but some pretty harsh. I realized the other day that we’re in another one of those revolutions. I don’t know what they’ll end up naming it — the Communications Revolution, maybe, or the Technology Revolution, perhaps. Whatever, books are right there in the middle of the fray, it would seem.

Interestingly, five years ago, on this blog, an acquisitions editor for a reputable Christian publisher said, “As for Amazon sales, those are NOT indicative of true sales.” I doubt if anyone is saying that today. There’s been a revolution. In fact, I just read in The Writer magazine that projections say Amazon will have 50% of book sales by the end of this year. Fifty percent!

Of course this revolution isn’t happening without those who want to fight back. Amazon’s being accused of turning into a monopoly with plans, not just to become THE book seller but THE publisher, what with their print-publishing venture.

How you feel about this revolution probably depends on how you’re connected to the book industry. One thing most people in the know seem to agree upon: Amazon is ignoring the way things have been and has created a new model based on what’s best for the consumer ( i. e, the reader).

In an industry where publishers, distributors, agents, and occasionally authors bicker with one another about issues great and small, Amazon has simply turned its back and addressed the issues from the perspective of the customer. (“Consider The Elephant” by David Malki, The Writer, Nov/Dec 2011.)

Hence, readers can buy books at a lower price, with greater ease, and perhaps with more knowledge about the product, than ever before.

Authors have mixed feelings about the encroachment of Amazon on the publishing scene. They are changing the landscape, without a doubt. As traditional publishers hunker down, they have fewer and fewer slots available, so only The Big Name authors seem likely to be happy with traditional publishing. Those being squeezed out, not so much. Are they happy with Amazon? Not necessarily because they are competing with an ever-growing field of writers who have discovered the ease with which they can get their work in print or on e-reader screens. Make that, Kindle screens.

Publishers, acquisition editors, even possibly agents are in the opposition to this revolutionary take-over threat. After all, they’re losing their gate-keeper role. If they don’t come down on the side of opposing the greater Communication Revolution — that is, if they approach the changes in the business with vision, embracing the technology and the opportunities afforded by social media — they have a chance to maintain a small piece of the pie they so recently hoarded.

For an unpublished writer like me, this is an interesting time for certain. There are many more options available than ever before, but will they be paying ones? In other words, can a writer ever again make a living as a writer? Not that many did before the start of the revolution. But an accompanying question is this: will writing suffer if it becomes littered with hobbyists rather than professionals?

I suppose newspaper people thought the same thing when blogs first came out with all kinds of divergent opinion, but in the case of news and politics, I think consumers care more about facts and opinions than they do the prose with which those are expressed. Blogging suddenly made it possible for the guy who used to chaffed because his letter to the editor had once again been ignored, to suddenly have his own column and his own loyal readers and the chance to write those letters to the editor in the form of comments on other blogs. Suddenly his opinion was getting out there and getting read.

Fiction is a different animal. There’s a bit of art to entertainment, and passionate people who haven’t learned the craft may be disappointed that their books won’t find a way out of the growing morass of similar stories.

The new question — but really, it’s old — is, how does a writer separate from the pack and become noticed? Writers who find an answer will most likely be the ones who navigate the newest crossover — from digital/self-publishing, to traditional. Or will that be, from traditional publishing to digital/self-pubbed?

One closing thought. Thank God He knows what’s going on! 😀

Published in: on February 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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